Communicating a State of Being – by Charlotte / 心のありようを伝える-シャーロット

Communicating a State of Being – by Charlotte

As we’ve been traveling through Japan to many different institutions to visit and perform, I have tried my best to see our visits not just from my own perspective, but from that of the residents, students and patients we are meeting with. For us, it may be our second or third institution of the day, and though each is very different, it can be challenging to approach these events as the unique experiences they truly are. This is where I must do the inner work of transmuting my own ego and emotions into a palpably meaningful musical experience for myself and the listeners.

I have been learning through this experience that what music really communicates and transmits is a state of being. When I have felt reserved, separate or emotionally withheld, the music I play does not take on an energetic life of its own. If I feel like I’m playing sounds on a page, or sounds that I long ago memorized, then what comes across is inherently two-dimensional. But when I can create sound from my instrument that exists only in this moment, and only because of this moment and these listeners, then I am creating something that takes on a life in the air between us and inside our hearts.

I can illustrate this experience with a few examples from a few days ago when we visiting three nursing homes in the area of Takamatsu. I was doing a room visit in the first facility and playing for a group of about fifteen elders. I played some Bach movements that I have been playing quite a lot, and they sounded nice, the people in the room seemed to enjoy them. I felt like I was doing my duty. But I remembered what it had felt like, and what had been experienced by myself and others, the times when I’d been able to glean from this music just a hint of what Bach himself may have felt the first time this music came to him—before they became notes on a page to be memorized and delivered with good sound, rhythm and intonation. I wanted to share that experience with these elders, if I could. So I began to improvise. My improvisation isn’t anything like the genius of Bach’s music, but it is undeniably real, filled with the risks and rewards of trying to be truly present. This heightened level of experience is the essence of what I want to create with music, and I could feel the atmosphere of the room shift as I shared this vulnerability. Though my improvisation was simple, I could tell from the reactions, smiles and hand-shakes from the listeners that it had made them feel something.

Later that day, in a quartet presentation, there was a woman sitting right in front of me whose reaction to the music was effusive. For the first few pieces, she had her hands on her cheeks in a gesture of overwhelm.  Her eyes were so bright as she took in every element of the performance, nodding along to our verbal explanations of the music. As we began to play the rhythmic, upbeat music that ends the program, she had her hands up in the air and was clapping along joyously. Her energy was so infectious to me that I was inspired to bring even more character and life to the familiar tunes, trying to elevate her experience as she was elevating mine. As we were exiting the stage, I took a moment to grasp her hand, to thank her for the joy she had shared. These small moments of the acknowledgement of shared experience and mutual gift are the most meaningful aspects to me of communicating life through music.